Weighing the Options

Why are we such easy prey when sin presents itself to us?  Here is an intriguing verse from 2 Chronicles 25:15, The Lord had sent one of his representatives to address King Amaziah and said,”Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” In other words, “what are you thinking? If the gods of your enemies were useless to stop you, what makes you think that all of a sudden these gods are worth following!” Continue reading “Weighing the Options”

The Freedom of Grace

Just in case you missed it….

For the last couple of weeks I have been receiving phone calls that have become a little annoying. When I go to answer the call with a very polite, “Hello”, on the other end I hear the horn of a cruise ship with a voice saying that I have won a free cruise.  I have never let the call go far enough to find out if my bride and I actually need start packing. But it did get me to thinking, is there anything in life that is free?

Continue reading “The Freedom of Grace”

The Freedom of Grace

Canadian currencyFor the last couple of weeks I have been receiving phone calls that have become a little annoying. When I go to answer the call with a very polite, “Hello”, on the other end I hear the horn of a cruise ship with a voice saying that I have won a free cruise.  I have never let the call go far enough to find out if my bride and I actually need start packing. But it did get me to thinking, is there anything in life that is free?

Continue reading “The Freedom of Grace”

What the World Needs Now

the crossI am humbled today.  I am humbled to think that I am so valuable to God that Jesus would die for me.  Last night, like millions of Canadians and Americans I watched Dr. Billy Graham’s last sermon (http://myhopewithbillygraham.org/programs/the-cross/).  The broadcast was entitled “The Cross”. After hearing the God-story of the two people featured on the video and the message from God’s Word, I am moved beyond words.

As a young person who had just come to faith in Jesus, I accompanied our church’s youth group to a weekend conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  On this particular weekend, one of the keynote messages dealt with the Cross.  As a new Christian, I will never forgot how the speaker described how valuable Jesus, God the Son was to God the Father. He talked about all the Son of God had endured to pay the penalty of the debt of sin that I owed. He talked of the Roman scourge and the cruelest form of execution that the Romans had invented called crucifixion. To top it all off, the separation for the first time in all eternity of God the Father and God the Son, you and I cannot even begin to fathom all that meant. For all the human race,  Jesus endured the shame of the cross to purchase our freedom from sin’s curse.

Have you gotten over it?  The pure, holy, lovely Son of God was made subject to the wrath of God so that we could go free! His righteousness was applied to us so that when God the Father looks at us, he sees his Son’s death and righteousness applied. God knew that this was the only way for us to be saved from his wrath. Here is the kicker for me, in John chapter 10, Jesus said that he willing laid down his life for us, no one took it from him, by his own volition he died. If that does not move your heart today you need to see either your cardiologist or your pastor or maybe even both!

The world has believed the lie of Satan that what we really need is material possessions, be the king of our lives and in control of everything! There is a reason he is called “the father of lies” in the Bible. He knows that none of those things can bring us real joy or satisfaction that lasts more than a day. But we keep trying. Even those who say they are Christians have fallen into his trap.

What the world needs now is the gospel. But the gospel is difficult, the gospel is insulting because we cannot do anything to make ourselves acceptable to God.  You cannot save yourself! The Cross of Jesus Christ is foolishness to the human race because we really think can make it on our own.  Deep down we know we cannot unless God changes our heart.

I am grateful that the Cross of Jesus, this gospel of Jesus Christ, is the only way that I can find true life. I have found out that I not only needed the gospel that day in 1978 but I need the gospel everyday! I need his grace to mold my character and shape my future. What I need now is the gospel.

You and I are so valuable to God that He would die for us. Absolutely amazing! Does that humble you, too?

The Practice of Prayer

It’s Wednesday night at 7 o’clock, we are gathered at the corner of Queens Avenue      apraying handsnd Adelaide Street in London, Ontario to pray.  We sing a couple of hymns, listen to a brief study of God’s Word then we gather in groups to pray.  But the prayer time seems very sterile and safe.  We pray for health issues, the pastors and missionaries and conclude with an Amen. But there is something missing.  I finally have put my thumb on it.

Prayer can become very rote. We do it because, well, God created Wednesday nights for prayer meeting, didn’t he?  It becomes so mechanical that we can pray whether God shows up or not. We forgot that the fundamental reason for prayer is not asking for stuff but having communion with the Creator of the universe.

Jesus taught this in his model prayer to his disciples.  When we pray there is a recognition to whom we are speaking, he is ‘Our Father in Heaven.’ There is an attitude of entering a holy place as we bow together with the recognition that we have been invited by him to enter. Hebrews 4:16 teaches us that we can boldly enter into the throne of grace to find help in time of need. We boldly enter with proper reverence and humility.

Have you heard the expression that prayer is work? For a long time I didn’t grasp the significance of that statement. The older I get (cue the record player!) the more I am beginning to get it. Prayer involves more than the repetition of phrases that we have learned from others. It involves the connection of our soul with God. For that reason we need to make sure that there are no impediments (sin) between us and the Lord.

Too often we treat prayer as the lucky rabbit’s foot. We think if we pray then all will be well and God will grant us our desires! Or, if we pray then we will have no problems, if we pray at the right time, with the right posture then God is almost obligated to answer us as we wish. But we have missed the greatest treasure of prayer. True prayer is the intimate relationship that we have with our Father (by the way, the fact we call God ‘our Father’ is a clue to that intimacy).

Jesus gives us a clue to this intimate relationship he invites us to in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” How in the world can we turn down that invitation! It is worthy of us clearing everything from our agenda to respond with all our soul, “Yes!”  The invitation to have a meal is something very personal and intimate. The Lord invites us to sit at his feet and pour out our heart and listen to Him. From the intimacy of our heart we express our love for him and desire to please him above all. That is what we do in prayer!

I am still learning about prayer. I am not sure I understand all of it yet but I hope to grow in getting to know the One to whom I am speaking. You?

Attention Getters

Have you ever noticed how much competition there is every day for your attention, and your money? It is really incredible the battle that goes on to captivate your passions. Advertisers frame their publicity in such glowing personal tones that one ends up becoming personally and emotionally attached to things. Take for example vehicle advertisements that make the purchase of that particular car or truck to be the absolute fulfillment of all you have ever dreamed to have in life! Fast food ads speak of their edible goods in terms of contentment onthe moral level for eating a certain hamburger or sandwich.  

The truth is that we need to get around and we need to eat. We want a reliable vehicle and good food to follow the examples we just shared. But these can never bring us the ultimate satisfaction we crave as they are advertised.  We are fall in the deceptive trap thinking that they actually can deliver true happiness and satisfaction. How in the world can things created give to us creatures any sense of contentment or joy in life? But that is what the world tries to sell us every day! And…you and I fall for it!  

Psalm 146 is God’s antidote for that erroneous thinking. After the declaration by the psalmist to praise the Lord has long as he has breathe, he challenges our tendency to trust, to find satisfaction, to find joy in that which does not last forever. If we have the choice between trusting in that which is temporary versus trusting that which is eternal, what do we choose? If you will allow me to ask, , what do you choose?  Is it not true that we try to get satisfaction out of that which could never give it to us! The Rolling Stones had it right, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”  

Psalm 146:3 says, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.”  Human beings are tempted to trust in the temporary every day. The advertising industry is built on this premise. They are experts at awakening that part of you that yearns to be satisfied.  But the great ‘shell game’ in that is that what you think you are going to get is impossible from that source no matter how attractive it is. Why? Because it is temporary. Verse 4 says, “When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” That is a short term investment.   

How much better to find real, lasting, deep satisfaction,and real joy in the One who can actually deliver the goods. ‘The goods’ being that which can bring us true satisfaction and joy in this life and in the next. Verse 5 says, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God,” This is truly incredible! Our hope, or our trust in is God, the writer mentions the God of Jacob. Jacob is that Old Testament character whose life was dramatically turned upside down by his encounter with God, you can read about it in Genesis 32:22-32. Jacob was trusting in what he could do, in fact his desire to get his father’s inheritance lead him to trust in his mother’s plan. But God met him, touched his life and Jacob took God as his hope and treasure. Only God could fill him with the satisfaction that he previously sought in a temporal blessing.   

This God who asks us to trust him is described in Psalm 146:6, as the One “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever…” Then we have a litany of examples given as to how God provides now and eternally for people’s needs. He is  the One in whom we find all of true, lasting satisfaction in life. As I read this Psalm I find myself indignant with my own shortsightedness in trying to manufacture my own contentedness with anything I could purchase with money.   

One of my favourite television programs when I was a small child was Captain Kangaroo (yes, that does date me!). He would always say at the end of the show, “”You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool Mom.” All of us, including Moms, can be fooled into thinking that anything this world has to offer us will bring us such satisfaction that it will last forever. Only God can truly offer that. What are you trusting or hoping in today?

 

Godly Passion

It is that time again.  Once every 4 years, countries around the world will compete for the Jules Rimet Trophy, as it was known between 1930 to 1970.  Today it is called the FIFA World Cup Trophy.  People will be glued to their television sets, tuned into their radios and booking sick days off work in order to watch and listen to the games.  Our family had the privilege of living in one such country that is football crazy.  What an unbelievable experience that was!  We remember how life game to a screeching halt whenever our team played!  Even the church prayer meeting was postponed until the penalty kicks were concluded, nobody could concentrate on praying while the game was still undecided!  One word describes that kind of atmosphere – passion!
The Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples that they were to love the Lord God with all of their hearts, souls and minds.  In other words, they were not just to go through the motions of being religious. They were to be so wrapped up in living for God that He was to be their all and all.  He was to be their passion.  I find myself more times than not of only floating from one experience to the next in life without involving or thinking about the Lord. 

It seems that when we fall into these ruts in life that God has to sort of tap us on the shoulders and says, “Remember me?”  For that reason, the New Testament book of James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”  The trials that God brings into our life help us to keep our priorities right and keep our passion for Him burning strong. 
We human beings have a tendency to be full of self, and we like to begin to take credit where we see progress and success.  There have been many times after I have stepped down from preaching a sermon where I have accepted the credit and adulation of others.  Inevitably, the Lord steps in to remind me who really gets the credit and who really should receive the adulation.  We are His instruments that He has chosen to use in order for the glory to go to Him.   It is all about Him.  Whenever we think that God cannot get along without us, He reminds us in very tangible ways that it is we who cannot get along without Him! 
Passion in living for God does not mean that we will always be euphoric or energetic, but it does mean that we will be determined to see His hand in everything we do and in all that we are.  We will serve Him because He demonstrated His love for us and has called us to do those things that will encourage one another.  Passion for God is giving Him my all in all each day of my life.  It is a determination that He will be the first priority. 
Finally, to be passionate for God is to give back to Him what He has already given to us, namely and specifically, our lives. Whenever I get too far overflowed with me I am reminded of where God has taken me from.  Ephesians 2:1-10 helps me keep things in perspective, I am what I am by the grace of God.  I was once a sinner, full of self, full of ungodliness and disobedience to the Lord – but now – because of His grace, I am His workmanship in Christ Jesus created to do good works!   It’s unbelievable! That fills me with passion for God!  I cannot remain how He found me, I must live to bring Him glory and honour today and every day! 

A New Beginning

    Where have I been?  What I mean to say is that I have been a Christian for almost 30 years and have never been gripped by God like I have been recently.  God’s love is becoming the number one motivation for all that I am and do.  It is the reason I get up in the morning, the reason I pastor a church, and the reason I am a faithful husband and friend! 
    For years I have struggled with many areas of my life even as a missionary and a pastor.  I have struggled with personal relationships with others depending on what side of issues they were on!  But I am more convinced now than ever before that when God is at the heart of life; He literally becomes your heart beat!  You live for Him, you breathe His will.  This is not to say that there are not challenges out there in my life but it is a testimony to God’s faithfulness in the midst of those challenges.
    The book of Proverbs has been particularly used by God in this rebirth of His love.  Chapter one verse seven of this book of wisdom says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” When we place God in His rightful place on the throne of our hearts then we begin to see Him for who He is.  Without any preconceived ideas or unrealistic expectations of what we will receive from God, the only thing we do is fall at His feet in true unadulterated worship!  ‘The fear of the Lord’ has to do with understanding with our finite minds and emotions His greatness and our puniness!  When we look at the creation around us, its detail, its variety, and its richness we can’t help but worship!  How much greater it is to know His work of grace in our lives!
    Too often in my life I have worshipped God for me and not for Him.  How I sing, how I am dressed, who is looking at me, who thinks I am a great guy all are false motivations that blocked my ability to truly worship the Lord.  Having said that, dressing well is a good thing, trying to sing on key is a good thing if I can do that but they are not the MAIN thing.  Being a part of a fellowship of God’s people as we sing God’s praise is one of the highlights of my week but who cares if anyone is looking at you!  It is all about Him.
    Our battle with sin even as believers is incessant in this life.  There never seems to be a time when we can get a break.  We memorize Scripture and pace the floor trying to avoid those feelings and temptations that attack us when we are vulnerable to no avail at times.  Could it be that we are trying to win a battle that on our own we can never win?  When I first became a Christian I memorized I Corinthians 10:13,There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” I quote in King James Version because that is how I first learned it.  God is the one who gives us the ability to win over sin when it comes a calling.
    Placing God at the very center of life is not a new teaching that I have just stumbled upon.  I have known it for a long time, ever since we sat in David’s basement and learned about it with a group of young men who were trying to live for God.  I recall the material demonstrating how God occupies the very centre sphere of life and everything else on the periphery.  Just like the coach before a football game, that is how it is supposed to be!  But life gets in the way and we lose our way. 
    I am forever grateful that God never gave up on me when there were several times that I gave up on Him.  I don’t know what the future holds but my commitment is to day by day place myself before His Throne and be still and know that He is God.  Would you join me?